No golf carts allowed

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, August 28, 2012

AHOSKIE – The Ahoskie Town Council declined to take up the issue of allowing golf carts on public streets during their meeting Aug. 14.

The board had a discussion about the issue at the behest of Mayor Brien Lassiter, who said he was asked by citizens to bring the issue before the board.

“I know, council, this was something that when you got your packet was maybe out of the blue for you,” Lassiter said. “This is something that was brought to my attention during my campaign for this position. I went back and revisited it with the person that was pushing it and they said they would like to see it happen.”

Lassiter said he shared with the citizen it was not an easy process and the board would have to study it.

Town Manager Tony  Hammond said the North Carolina General Assembly amended state statutes in 2009 to allow the towns to make their own decisions about allowing golf carts on municipal streets.

“There were so many requests coming in from so many different municipalities the General Assembly did a blanket General Statute update and allowed any municipality in North Carolina to authorize the use of golf carts on municipal streets if they want to,” Hammond said.

The manager said the town would have to hold a public hearing because it would require an amendment to the town’s ordinances.

“As the mayor said, there are a lot of places in North Carolina that do this,” Hammond said. “A vast majority of them are resort communities, but there are other municipalities in the state that are doing this for a vast number of reasons – economy, convenience, having a small community.”

He said it also would have to be regulated by the Ahoskie Police Department. He said not just any golf cart can be allowed on the streets, so they would have to inspected and given a decal to be allowed on the town’s roadways.

Hammond also told the board the municipality cannot allow golf carts on state-maintained streets.

“For us, if you granted them to be used on municipal streets, they kind of be restricted to north, south, east and west because you can’t cross a state highway with them,” he said. “That would mean you can’t go across Academy Street, Memorial Drive, Catherine Creek Road, N.C. 561, so it would restrict you into certain areas of town.

“You couldn’t use them from my house on Church Street to go to Wal-Mart,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way because you can’t allow them on state highways.”

Commissioner O.S. “Buck” Suiter asked if Hammond thought most citizens knew which streets were state-maintained. Hammond said he did not and thought it would take some education.

Suiter also asked about the liability for the town. He said he believed the town would be named in a lawsuit if someone was injured and that he felt the town could be partially liable.

“I just wonder if we’re really accomplishing anything,” he said.

He then asked Public Works Director Kirk Rogers about the golf cart used by his department. Rogers said there were times that, despite being as safe as possible, he still feared for his employees using the golf cart.

Rogers said he didn’t want to really come down on one side or the other, but he was concerned about golf carts being used on Church Street because of the narrowness of the street.

Councilman Malcolm Copeland said he didn’t feel the town could adequately supervise it. Councilwoman Elaine Myers agreed. She said she was concerned about the safety issue as well.

“I feel like there’s a safety issue in small vehicles running around town,” she said.

Suiter said he was concerned the police department had enough to do without adding to their work load.

He went on to say that he didn’t think most people would even want the use of golf carts when they realized how restricted they would be.

“I don’t know what we would accomplish really,” he said.

“I think we are positioning ourselves for more problems and more time-consuming issues and taking time away from something that could be more important for the police department,” Myers said. “That’s the way I see it.”

Councilman Maurice Vann asked if it was illegal at this point to drive golf carts. He was told it was, but that it was likely just a town citation and that the person would likely receive a warning for the first offense.

Hammond said there were issues with four-wheelers already and that the town was trying to get a handle on it.

Councilman Winfred Hardy said his feelings were simple.

“I think we ought to leave it like it is,” he said.

Lassiter asked the board if they wanted to hold public input sessions or if they were satisfied they didn’t want to take action, they could reject the proposal.

Suiter said the board seemed unwilling to move in that direction and he wasn’t sure what would be accomplished in delaying.

Suiter made a motion to reject the request with Hardy offering a second. It passed without objection.